“The Lord giveth, and the Lord taketh away.” People say that all the time, and that’s how I felt about two years ago when a sweet friend called to tell me that her family was moving away.
We had only been friends about 18 months, but her dad is a pastor, so she knows the path our family travels in a different way than most. She was the first real friend I made in our current church, our husbands instantly connected, and our kids are all the same age.
Except she has one more.
We often joked about how Kory and I needed to have one more to give her baby a friend.
They moved at the end of that school year, and I hadn’t seen her since, until this summer when they joined us at Family Camp. Sure, we kept up on Facebook and Instagram, swapped occasional texts, and thought of each other often. But we didn’t really connect for over two years.
On one of the first mornings at camp, we had the privilege of spending about 30 minutes rocking on the porch, sipping coffee, and catching up. It was during that conversation each of us discovered that the other had struggled through the last year. Our struggles resulted from different circumstances, of course, but the themes were so similar.
How would it have changed our journeys if we could have supported each other through them? Yes, we were miles apart, but an occasional phone call would have been good medicine for our souls.
We left camp, promising that we would do a better job to stay connected. But we got home, life got busy, and we didn’t talk for weeks. Then early one Saturday morning, I felt an enormous burden to connect with her, so I sent her a quick text, just to touch base. Turns out, there was a lot going on in her world.
We swapped a few texts and then I called it.
“Let’s schedule a phone call.”
So we did.
After 30 minutes on the phone, we caught up, shared specific prayer requests, and filled each others’ cups.
We spent another 20 minutes on the phone early this week just to get an update on each of the things we discussed, and we’re in agreement. We have a renewed sense that someone special is “in our corner,” and that feels good.
Last week, I shared about my journey with social media.
I love it, but that hasn’t always been so. And even in my current state of “love,” I recognize that it’s flawed. If not managed properly, it can be extremely damaging to community building and self-esteem.
I think this results from the fact that, through social media, we achieve a sense of connection with the people in our circles, simply because we know a little bit about what’s going on in their lives.
“Yeah, I saw that on Facebook,” we often say when we’re catching up with our friends in real time.
But most people only share their highlight reel on Facebook. Most people don’t share their deep-dark secrets, their hurts, their struggles, or their insecurities with the masses.
Yes, we know about their trip to the zoo, their children’s victories on the ball field, and what they had for dinner on date night. But this is a false sense of connection. We may know what’s filling their calendar, but we don’t know much about their broken heart or their anxiety or whether it’s easy for them to get out of the bed in the morning.
We also end up judging our insides in comparison to their outsides. Because we’re keenly aware of how we feel on the inside, but their timeline only reveals what’s happening on their outside. This may result in feelings of inadequacy and failure.
Thus, loneliness and low self-esteem often emerge.
I’m sharing this with you because I’m learning that real community is the very best gift we can give ourselves. Because life is hard, and we need friends.
But community will not just spring up. And it won’t maintain itself if we aren’t willing to connect outside of the online world. It only comes if we’re willing to do the hard work and share our most precious resource with others.
Our time. In real time.
A phone call.
A coffee date.
A girls night out.
The idea may seem overwhelming. Because we’re all busy, and we think we don’t have time for these kinds of things.
So how do we do it? How do we find the time to take care of all our business and build community at the same time?
- When someone comes to mind, I no longer brush my thoughts aside. Instead, I listen to my inner-voice and reach out. Usually, I discover that something is going on with them (because something is always going on, isn’t it?), and my effort creates an opportunity for us to connect.
- When I want to visit on the phone with someone, I schedule it. It sounds formal, like I’m scheduling a teleconference for work, but it’s so helpful. It allows us to pick a mutually-convenient time, like when we’re both driving to the school for pick-up and have nothing better to do.
- I have two hours during the week set aside for community building. One coffee date and one lunch date. I’ve actually put them on my calendar, even though I have no idea who will be joining me from one week to the next.
- I set boundaries up-front when I’m meeting with people. I do this because I think one of the reasons we don’t invest in real time is because we fear it will wreck our day. You know, the coffee date that turns into 2 1/2 hours and steals your chance to get to the grocery store? Yes, you had a good time, but your kids are eating chicken fingers for dinner. Again. So when I reach out to a friend in an effort to connect, I might say something like this: “I would love to meet you for coffee or lunch in the coming weeks. I am available from 8:30-9:30 on Tuesday or from 12:00-1:00 on Wednesday. Would either of those work?” This makes getting together less threatening for both parties, and most often, I get a yes.
So back to you.
Who do you call “friend”? And how long has it been since the two of you sat across the table? Spoke on the phone? Visited in person?
Do you really know what your friends are going through right now? And do your friends really know what’s going on with you?
I’m guessing the answer is “no” for many of you. And I’m guessing that your primary excuse is a busy schedule. Yes, life is busy. But it’s also short. And it’s hard. And we were made to live in community. So do yourself a favor. Pick up the phone and reconnect with your people.
It’s the best gift you can give yourself. And you can thank me later. (Wink.)